Now that I’ve completed the coursework portion of my doctoral life, I’ve lost the structure of designated class meetings, assignment due dates, and syllabi. Now I’ve entered the unstructured world of independent study and writing. This semester I’ve been gearing up for my prelim statements, working on a pilot study, and writing (writing, writing, writing….). It’s been a significant adjustment from the first year and a half of the doc program. I have been surprised at how much of a challenge this change has been for me. I’ve always prided myself at being an independent worker, working best without a rigid schedule. I struggled in a 9 to 5 work environment, so more flexible schedule of the doctoral program has been a welcomed relief. But with this freedom has come more responsibility and a bit of chaos.
For the most part, my educational career, from elementary school to PhD, has been designed for me by an instructor. Usually, I didn’t have much input into what the assignments were, how the information was presented, or how I could organize my time. Over the course of this semester, I’ve learned (slowly) how to develop my own schedule, complete with self-imposed flexible deadlines. Last week I shared some of my anxieties over the unstructuredness of this semester with a couple of doc students. It seems to be a shared feeling. I felt much better about myself after learning this! While we have always been good students, it has been within the confines of an organized and pre-planned coursework. At first, this relatively complete freedom is somewhat terrifying. It’s an intimidating load to take on, especially after an intense couple of semesters worth of coursework. For me, it feels as though I’m trying to multitask at an nth degree. I’ve never been a believer in multitasking, but I keep finding myself trying to juggle all these different tasks. Over and over again I would construct a to-do list that would only result in stressing me out more. The opposite of helping me get anything done. But after this initial nervousness and confusion, I think I have figured out how I can organize it all (for the most part). My approach is not easy, pretty, or even logical to other people. But it works for me and I’m finishing stuff. The chaos has been managed(ish).
Part of my approach is to cut myself some slack. My perfectionism has a habit of sneaking in and preventing me from working as confidently as I’d like. Nobody expects perfection, so why should I?